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Thundering Herd pull away late for first-ever win at UTEP

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Thundering Herd pull away late for first-ever win at UTEP

Evan Gilyard led all Miners, tying his career-high with 20 points.

Evan Gilyard led all Miners, tying his career-high with 20 points.

Gaby Velasquez

Evan Gilyard led all Miners, tying his career-high with 20 points.

Gaby Velasquez

Gaby Velasquez

Evan Gilyard led all Miners, tying his career-high with 20 points.

Jeremy Carranco, Sports Editor

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In crunch time, Marshall got to the line and hit timely shots to hold off a second half UTEP rally, defeating the Miners 74-65 on Saturday night for their first-ever win at the Don Haskins Center (1-7).

Now losers of five-straight games, UTEP (7-16, 2-9 C-USA) is in danger of missing the Conference USA tournament for the first time since joining the league in 2005 as the team sits in 13th place out of 14 teams.

Only the conference’s top 12 teams compete for the league’s automatic bid come March.

Turnovers haunted the Miners for the second game in a row, handing over 17 to Marshall after allowing 16 to Western Kentucky on Thursday. UTEP also missed some crucial free throws late in the game that didn’t help the cause in achieving the comeback.

“Way too many turnovers with 17,” UTEP interim head coach Phil Johnson said. “I really thought we we’re going to be a very good ball security team and we’ve taken a big step backwards in that area the past couple of games. We had too many wild plays and turnovers that really was the game because when we cut it to three (51-48), I thought we were right there and we would go and take them out.”

The Miners also started the game slow with three turnovers in the first minute of the contest, a different script from Thursday where UTEP started nicely and even led WKU by two points at the break.

“It was really a poor start,” Johnson said. “The effort was really disappointing and I made that clear at halftime. The guys responded at the start of the half (second), came out and fought hard.”

UTEP trailed Marshall by 10 at the break (34-24) but came out of the locker room with the half’s first five points that gave the team energy to claw back. However, nine turnovers in the frame allowed the Thundering Herd to convert for six points and momentum.

The Miners kept Marshall to 11 points below their season average (85.3) for scoring and four percentage points below their average in shooting percentage (46.3), holding the Herd to 42.4 percent. With their 85.3 average, the Thundering Herd are Conference USA’s highest scoring offense and the nation’s eighth best in that category.

“The fact that we fought and came back, give our guys credit,” Johnson said.

UTEP was led by freshman guard Evan Gilyard who tied his career-high of 20 points in the loss.

“I was just trying to create energy on the defensive end,” Gilyard said. “I was just trying to get everyone to come together and work on defense and work on offense and get good shots up to pick up the intensity.”

Part of UTEP’s starting five was graduate transfer Keith Frazier (eight points, six rebounds), who’s start was his first since Dec. 22, 2017 against North Dakota State in the Sun Bowl Invitational title game. The start for Frazier was also his first in a conference game since Jan. 14, 2015 when he started at Temple while he was at SMU in the American Athletic.

Marshall’s Jon Elmore leads the nation with two triple-doubles and finished the contest with 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists to lead the Herd.

The Miners will now head on the road in search of answers.

UTEP faces Charlotte on Thursday (Feb. 15) and will wrap up the trip at Old Dominion on Saturday (Feb. 17).

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Thundering Herd pull away late for first-ever win at UTEP